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The personal ‘a’ in Spanish

Corporate Spanish Trainer

Understanding the personal ‘a’ in Spanish

The personal ‘a’  in Spanish has no translation in English.

Review Post: Saber vs. Conocer



¿Cómo estás hoy? Espero que estés bien.

When we learn another language it sure is helpful when we get a direct translation: Yo estoy aprendiendo español – I + am + learning + Spanish.
If I had to put a number on it, I might say that 80% is a direct translation between Spanish and English.
However, there are times when word order is very different or that things don’t translate between the 2 languages.
The personal ‘a’ is one such word that does not translate at all into English.


The personal ‘a‘ in Spanish

Apuntes – Notes

1. The ‘a‘ personal is different from the preposition ‘a which indicates a direction or time.

Examples: These are NOT the ‘a‘ personal

Vamos a las montañas – We are going to the mountains. (direction – with the verb ir)

Tengo una clase a las 10:00am. – I have a class at 10:00am. (time)


2. The ‘a‘ personal is used when the direct object is a person or a domestic pet/animal


Yo busco a mi amigo, but… Yo busco mi libro.

Ellos no conocen a Miguel, but … Ellos no conocen los libros de Isabel Allende

Nosotros miramos la tele, but miramos a los niños jugando.


3. There are many verbs that often have a person or pet as the direct object.
It’s pretty easy to know which verbs will use the ‘a’ personal.

For example
: You ‘help‘ a person, but not ‘travel‘ a person.

Yo ayudo a mi hermano los sábados. – I help my brother on Saturdays, but with the verb viajar, a person wouldn’t follow.

Ellos viajan con muchas maletas. – They travel with lots of suitcases. – No need for the personal ‘a’ here.


Using the personal ‘a’

Here are 10 verbs that take the ‘a‘ personal ... if the direct object is a person or pet.

1. ayudar – to help
2. besar – to kiss
3. buscar – to look for
4. conocer – to know
5. escribir – to write
6. esperar – to wait for
7. invitar – to invite
8. llevar – to take
9. mirar – to watch
10. visitar – to visit



A. Los niños besan mucho a su perro.

B. Yo escribo a mi amiga en Europa.

C. Esperamos a nuestro hijo.

D. Danny invita a 8 personas a su fiesta.

E. Adi lleva a sus hijos a la escuela. (Which ‘a’ is the ‘a‘ personal?)

F. ¿Visitas a tus padres este fin de semana?


4. Note that the ‘a‘ personal is NOT used with tener or hablar.

Ellos tienen 3 hijos y 2 perros.

Yo hablo con mi amigo todos los días. (hablar con)


Action steps: Reread the above information on the ‘a‘ personal.
Try to observe it in readings and people talking.
Note that there is no translation in English, although sometimes it seems that there is.


Gracias por acompañarme el día de hoy y hasta mañana,